Thursday, January 1, 2009

More Voices Found: Bessie Porter Head

Elizabeth Ann Porter was born in Belfast on January 1, 1850. Very little is known about her younger life, but at some point she became involved with the Young Women's Christian Association and was the secretary of the Swansea branch in 1894. From 1897 to 1907 she served with the South Africa General Mission in Cape Town, Port Elizabeth, and Johannesburg, helping to found South African branches of the YWCA. In 1907 she married the chairman of the SAGM, Albert Alfred Head, and returned to England. She and her husband, both evangelical Anglicans, were also members of the annual Keswick Convention.

Bessie, as she was known, wrote much religious verse as well as prose articles about her missionary experiences for the publications of the Convention and the SAGM. A collection of her verses, Heavenly Places and other Messages (1920) contained this one, a renewal hymn by a New Year baby.

O Breath of Life, come sweeping through us,
Revive your church with life and power;
O Breath of Life, come, heal, renew us,
Prepare our hearts to meet this hour.

O Wind of God, come thrill us, wake us,
Till humbly we confess our need;
Then in your tenderness remake us,
Revive, restore, for this we plead.

O Breath of Love, come breathe within us,
Renewing thought and will and heart;
Come, Love of Christ, afresh to win us,
Strengthen us now in every part.

O Heart of Christ, once broken for us,
Where we shall find our strength and rest;
Our broken, contrite hearts now solace,
And let our waiting souls be blest.

Revive us, God! Is zeal abating
While harvest fields are vast and white?
Revive us, God, the world is waiting,
Help us go forth to spread the light.

Bessie Porter Head, 1920; alt.
Mary Jane Hammond, 1920

Bessie continued to write religious verse until her death in 1936. More of her hymns appeared in the Keswick Hymn Book (1937). Unfortunately, almost nothing is known about composer Mary Jane Hammond.


Anonymous said...

This is a wonderful hymn that has a powerful message of the Breath of Life the Wind of God or the blessed Holy Spirit's work in renewal of God's Church. We will introduce this hymn to our fellowship this coming Sunday! Thank you Lord for giving your Church servant hymn writers like Bessie Porter Head.

Anonymous said...

I just discovered a wonderful poem by Bessie Porter in Streams in the Desert -Vol. One- July 1st's devotional. It is based on "There shall be a performance." (Luke 1:45) and "My words shall be fulfilled in their season" (Luke1:20).
It was just the Word of affirmation I needed to keep on waiting for the fulfillment of a promise the Lord gave me 26 years ago!

C.W.S. said...

Welcome, anonymous.